Who doesn’t like a good explosion? If less people were intrigued by these rapid chemical reactions Hollywood would actually have to start paying writers in order to turn a profit. Hollywood action movies are silly and trivial entities, people watch them for visceral rather than intellectual thrills. I say this with tongue planted in cheek of course, I’d be a hypocrite to say it otherwise; I’ve probably seen the movie Speed 20 times after all. I’m not talking about “thinking man’s” action movies here, there’s a huge difference between Minority Report and Commando. We’re talking about absolute junk food, movies like Bad Boys 2 in which a man is shot in the head before falling down on a land mine that proceeded to blow off his torso in the bloodiest way possible. Bad Boys 2 was the movie Michael Bay had been threatening to make for years, it was so stupid it almost had to be self conscious, and not even Michael Bay could have made it with any serious intention. What does all this have to do with the movie at hand? A lot really; this is a genre that is already so over the top as to be borderline self parody in its original form, its hard to take something like that and lampoon it. The new British comedy Hot Fuzz suffers from this.
The film tells the story of Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) a London cop with an immaculate record. He is so efficient in fact that he makes the rest of the London cops look bad; as such his superiors transfer him to the quite rural village of Sandford. Angel is a fish out of water in this sleepy and crime free town. Angel’s new partner is Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) and overweight buffoon who’s seen to many cop movies. In regular action movie fashion the two initially dislike each other but come to form a mutual respect over the course of the film. The police force is run by Danny’s father, Inspector Frank Butterman (Jim Broadbent), who anyone who’s seen to many of these movies can guess is going to be either a compete idiot or corrupt. By sheer coincidence, a series of murders strike the town right as Angel begins his stay. There’s something rotten in the town of Sandford and Nicholas Angel may be the only one who can solve this mystery.
Hot Fuzz was written by Simon Pegg (who also stars) and Edgar Wright (who also directs). This is the same team that made the cult hit British romantic comedy (with zombies) Shaun of the Dead, a delightful comedy in which chronicled the title character’s attempt to maintain his relationship with his girlfriend all while a zombie apocalypse is going on in the background. Hot Fuzz is not really in the same style as Shaun, in fact it’s the exact opposite: while Shaun took an extreme situation and made it mundane, this effort takes mundane situations and makes them extreme. Shaun told a legitimately interesting story against a backdrop that made this story all the more funny; this is a very creative set up. Fuzz on the other hand settles for being a straight up spoof, a far more conventional format. Its hardly the first movie to spoof action movies either, the most infamous entry in the genre is almost certainly Schwarzenegger’s The Last Action Hero, an infamous bomb to be sure, but better than its reputation would suggest. Fuzz does definitely top The Last Action Hero, but it’s not really doing anything more daring than that film. Another lampoon of the genre that Fuzz doesn’t top is Mat Stone and Trey Parker’s dirty puppet show Team America: World Police, a film that fails as political satire but does perfectly spoof Jerry Bruckheimer style action films.
Fuzz is definitely flawed, but there are enough laughs in it to make it worthwhile viewing. Many critics criticized the film’s last half as a decent into the very action scenes the film was making fun of. I however think this is when the film really started to get good. The insane over the top gun fighting in this small town really had me laughing. The movie manages to pull out every cliché in the book and turn them on their heads. There are also some pretty clever jokes sprinkled through out the first two acts, like the supermarket owner played by Timothy Dalton who is so clearly the villain behind the murders even though no one can put two and two together until the formula says it can.
Hot Fuzz is not an innovative movie, its plot works no level but parody, its tone is inconsistent, yet it’s also still pretty funny. The film is more disappointing than it is bad; I guess the talent behind this is so funny they are going to manage to come up with enough good jokes to make a movie worth checking out. Still it’s hardly as funny or clever as other parodies of the action genre or the same team’s Shaun of the Dead. This might have worked but Michael Bay already did everything this is trying to do except with a straight face.
*** out of four